September 23, 2013

Good morning!  I am blessed indeed as my mother is visiting me all week.  As I want to spend every minute with her that I can, I am taking a week away from my blog.  I look forward to returning next week and sharing all our adventures with you, and until then have a wonderful week!

Hundreds of dewdrops to greet the dawn,
Hundreds of bees in the purple clover,
Hundreds of butterflies on the lawn,
But only one mother the wide world over.
~George Cooper

September 20, 2013

You Warm My Heart

Today's blog is not about geographical places as much as it is about places of the heart, starring a hot, rejuvenating cup of tea:

Bringing hot tea to make my beloved Aunt Mary feel better when she was ill.

She's been gone close to a quarter of a century, but I still miss her, a lot. She was the only one that ever got away with calling me Mart-o.  Sometimes, I think I hear her say it softly when I'm thinking about something she would enjoy.

In fact, one of my little figurines represent a day I took care of her--I think I was only about four at the time, but I remember being so proud of serving as Grandma's helper and carrying in a cup of tea to my aunt.

Memories of Yesterday figurine--"You Warm my Heart"
Having a tea party with my grandmother

We used our imaginations to turn oatmeal boxes into doll's tea tables and chairs and had a lovely time sipping imaginary tea and nibbling at dainty imaginary cookies in her living room.

We used my sweet little tea set that has survived the years and is proudly displayed in my home.  I don't think I'll reveal how old it is, if that is okay with you!

My child's set matches the beautiful Blue Willow tea cups my husband lovingly chose at Harrod's when we visited London--two tea cups and saucers so that my mother and I could have matching cups.  I loved to use them when I would invite her over for an afternoon tea and I would make her favorite English cake roll.  We would sit and sip tea and watch Pride and Prejudice or Sense and Sensibility and revel in all things British.

Oops, wait a minute.  Sorry, Mom, looks like we are drinking our notorious Pimms Cups instead of tea in this picture!  But I wanted to show off my lovely tea pot from England and our dainty cucumber sandwiches and chocolate dipped strawberries...

That's is one of my Harrods tea cups!

And even better...afternoon tea of cream scones and strawberry jam.  In the top left corner is my mother's favorite cake roll--soft layers of apricot jam and tea flavored whipped cream.  Beautiful linens, an antique lace table topper, a British movie and the company of my mother. What more can I say? 

Memory's Garden

by Ella Wheeler Wilcox

Back on its golden hinges
The gate of Memory swings,
And my heart goes into the garden
And walks with the olden things.
The old-time, joys and pleasures,
The loves that it used to know,
It meets there in the garden,
And they wander to and fro.
It heareth a peal of laughter,
It seeth a face most fair,
It thrills with a wild, strange rapture
At the glance of a dark eye there;
It strayeth under the sunset
In the midst of a merry throng,
And beats in a tuneful measure,
To the snatch of a floating song.

September 19, 2013

Pop...pop...popovers (and tea)!

Having sipped tea in Scotland, England and Turkey, it's time to try a little domestic tea, don't you think?  So today we'll drop in at a very favorite place of mine, Jordan Pond House in Acadia National Park near Bar Harbor, Maine.  I read about this restaurant on TripAdvisor when we were planning our trip to Maine a few years ago, and the reviews had me eager to experience their afternoon tea.

Back in the late 1800's visitors to Acadia National Park became more sophisticated and expected some of the same comforts that they had back home, and of course afternoon tea was one of those comforts.  The Jordan Pond House traces its history from 1847, where its first settlers conducted a logging operation. The original farm house was built by the Jordan family of Seal Harbor, for whom the pond and house were named. The Jordan Pond House was founded as a restaurant by Mr. Melvan Tibbetts in the early 1870's. In 1895, Mr. and Mrs. Thomas McIntire began their association, which was to last over 50 years. They were responsible for the character and atmosphere of the original Jordan Pond House, with its birch bark dining rooms and massive fieldstone fireplaces. Near the end of the McIntire's reign, Mr. John D. Rockefeller, Jr. purchased the property and gave it to the National Park Service to ensure its continuation.  It is located on the Park Loop Road and has both indoor and outdoor seating for its visitors.

The views are spectacular, especially looking out towards the Pond, flanked on the west by Penobscot Mountain and to the northeast by the two mountains known as the Bubbles.  You can see them in my picture below.  The pond has amazingly clear water, with visibility up to 60 feet recorded, the deepest in Maine.
The pond is ringed by a walking trail, and one of the park's original carriage trails runs along a ridge adjoining the pond.
A major excitement for me was that while we were walking along one of the trails by the shore I spotted my very first loon.  It was an On Golden Pond moment--I could just hear Katherine Hepburn calling out to Henry Fonda in that wavery voice of hers... "look, Norman, the loons, the loons!!" 

And then of course, there was afternoon tea.  What can I say?  It was close to perfection.

Tea and perfect popovers, fresh from the oven, served with homemade strawberry jam. 

Browsing through a bookstore the next day in Bar Harbor, I came across a great New England cookbook, The New England Table by Lora Brody, that included the recipe for Jordan Pond House Popovers.  They might not be quite as good as my memory of our delightful afternoon refreshments, but according to my husband they are pretty darn close!  And every time I make them, I smile and remember my first loon, a walk along a clear and beautiful pond and a delicious afternoon tea.  And to keep the smiles coming, I'll end today's post with this commencement address from Dr. Seuss in 1977 at Lake Forest College.  In true Dr. Seuss fashion, his speech was short, consisting of only this poem:

“My Uncle Terwilliger on the Art of Eating Popovers”
My Uncle ordered popovers
from the restaurant’s bill of fare.
And, when they were served,
he regarded them
with a penetrating stare.
Then he spoke great words of wisdom
as he sat there on that chair:
“To eat these things,”
said my uncle,
“you must exercise great care.
You may swallow down what’s solid
you must spit out the air!”
as you partake of the world’s bill of fare,
that’s darned good advice to follow.
Do a lot of spitting out the hot air.
And be careful what you swallow.

September 18, 2013

Tea and a Turkish Bazaar

Yesterday's tea was in the British Museum cafe, and how on earth do you top that?  In search of my most memorable tea experiences, how about we cruise over to the Aegean coast and see what we can discover in the Turkish bazaars?  Kusadasi is a popular port of call for cruise ships, and on a trip to the Greek islands with our youth symphony two years after our London trip, we made a port of call there on our way to ancient Ephesus. 
The area has been a center of art and culture for centuries and has been settled by many civilizations since being founded by the Leleges people in 3000 BC. Later settlers include the Aeolians in the 11th century BC and Ionians in the 9th century.  Kuşadası was a minor port frequented by vessels trading along the Aegean coast. In antiquity it was overshadowed by Ephesus, until Ephesus' harbor silted up. From the 7th century BC onwards the coast was ruled by Lydians from their capital at Sardis, then from 546 BC the Persians, and from 334 BC along with all of Anatolia the coast was conquered by Alexander the Great. From then onwards the coastal cities  were a center of Hellenistic culture.  The Roman Empire took possession of the coast in the 2nd century BC and made it their provincial capital and in the early years of Christianity.   St John the Evangelist came to live in the area, which in the Christian era became known as "Ania".  Later the port was a haven for pirates.

Bazaar Entrance

As Byzantine, Venetian and Genoese shippers began to trade along the coast the port was re-founded, a garrison was placed on the island, and the town center moved from the hillside to the coast.  From 1086 the area came under Turkish control and the Aegean ports became the final destination of caravan routes to the Orient. However this arrangement was overthrown by the Crusades and the coast again came under Byzantine control until 1280, when Kuşadası was brought into the Ottoman Empire by Mehmet I in 1413. The Ottomans built the city walls and the caravanserai that still stand today.
Outside shops
But fascinating history aside, what (I can hear you asking) does this have to do with TEA?  We had a few marvelous hours to spend wandering the narrow aisles of the Turkish bazaar, filled with all sorts of fascinating and colorful and sometimes mystifying items.  

 My husband and I ducked into a small jewelry shop to "browse" and had a delightful time bartering with the owner over a pretty Greek key necklace.  I was impressed with my husband's bartering skills and was soon the proud owner of a lovely reminder of our Turkish adventure.  
I apologize for the grainy camera and I were having lighting difficulties.  You can see my necklace draped over a rock from the Parthenon ('s illegal to pick rocks up there!), some Greek coins and a pretty Greek key design table runner from Santorini.  The necklace has a key design as well.
Once our transaction was complete we began to leave the shop, but the shop owner hastily stopped us and asked us to sit down at a small table.  Then from the back room his wife entered carrying a brass tray with beautiful glass cups and a steaming pot of tea.  They explained that Turkish custom called for a transaction to be celebrated with hot cups of tea, which in this case turned out to be delicious apple tea.  Drinking hot tea also helped regulate the body's temperature to adjust to the heat outside, and in addition, apple tea was praised for its ability to help people with allergies and asthma.  
We brought home two glass cups, and also several boxes of the apple tea.  It did indeed help our son's asthma!
So there you have it, a wonderful unexpected tea memory at the Turkish bazaar.  It was an experience I think of often...two different cultures bridging the gap with gracious ceremony and sipping tea together.  I think we should try it more often.
That night on the cruise ship after we left Turkey and headed back to Greece there was a captain's dinner.  Here is the picture from that evening--my husband and I with our two older sons who played in the youth symphony.  What wonderful memories!

Like the corners of my mind
Misty water-colored memories
Of the way we were
Scattered pictures,
Of the smiles we left behind
Smiles we gave to one another
For the way we were
So it's the laughter
We will remember
Whenever we remember...
The way we were...
The way we were...
(The Way We Were--with the sad middle section removed!  Lyrics by Michelle Lewis)

September 17, 2013

Tea and the wonders of the world

When my husband and I started planning a trip to London with his youth symphony back in the '90's one place that I was immediately excited about was the British Museum.  Established in 1753, largely based on the collections of the physician and scientist Sir Hans Sloane, it first opened to the public on 15 January 1759 on the site of the current museum building.  As an avid reader of Egyptologist Amelia Peabody's adventures I yearned to view the Egyptian mummies and artifacts (and if you aren't yet acquainted with Amelia, I urge you to run, not walk, to the nearest library for Crocodile on the Sandbank, the first in this delightful series by Elizabeth Peters.)  
 UK - London - Bloomsbury - British Museum: Pai...
I couldn't wait to see the Rosetta Stone, on display there since 1854, and marvel at this key that unlocked the secrets of the hieroglyphs. 

 I wanted to gaze at the impassive, impressive Assyrian statues who have kept watch for centuries.
Assyrian statues - British Museum 
And not only did I get to spend the better part of a day roaming through this magnificent museum, some of my very favorite people were at my side.  Besides my husband, my mother, who is a bigger Anglophile than I, and a dear musician friend of ours, who served as one of our chaperones, were also on this trip.  We had dreamed of visiting England for years, and to be actually walking through the exhibits...I think we all murmured "pinch me, am I really here?" several times!
Fanny packs and walking shoes, yup, we're tourists!
I remember being in awe of the Elgin marbles, fascinated by the skill it took to bring stone to life, with soft imagined breezes gently rustling the marble togas.  

Our friend, Mary, marveled at the illustrations in the Book of Kells.
And  my mother, after hours on our feet, wisely suggested taking refreshment in the museum cafe.
I love this picture of Mom and me.
Which leads me to another wonderful memory of tea, scones and strawberry jam, resting our feet and chatting a mile a minute about the wonders we had seen and have never forgotten.  Tea with friends, the best way to spend an afternoon in London!
See the little jam pot?  I still have mine on a shelf in my kitchen, a happy reminder of a perfect afternoon!
And with so many memories of the  marvels of the ancient world swirling around my head, it seems appropriate to visit Xanadu for today's poem, Kubla Khan, by British Romantic poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge.

In Xanadu did Kublai Khan
A stately Pleasure-Dome decree,
Where Alph, the sacred river ran
Through caverns measureless to man
Down to a sunless sea.
So twice five miles of fertile ground
With walls and towers was girdled ’round,
And there were gardens bright with sinuous rills,
Where blossomed many an incense-bearing tree;
And here were forests ancient as the hills,
Enfolding sunny spots of greenery.
But, oh! That deep, romantic chasm which slanted
Down the green hill, athwart a cedarn cover:
A savage place! As holy and enchanted
As e’er beneath the waning moon was haunted
By woman wailing for her Demon Lover!
And from this chasm with ceaseless turmoil seething,
As if this Earth in fast, thick pants were breathing,
A mighty fountain momently was forced,
Amid whose swift, half-intermitted burst
Huge fragments vaulted like rebounding hail,
Or chaffy grain beneath the thresher’s flail;
And ‘midst these dancing rocks at once and ever,
It flung up momently the sacred river!
Five miles meandering with ever a mazy motion,
Through wood and dale the sacred river ran,
Then reached the caverns measureless to man,
And sank in tumult to a lifeless ocean.
And ‘mid this tumult, Kublai heard from far
Ancestral voices prophesying war!
The shadow of the Dome of Pleasure
Floated midway on the waves,
Where was heard the mingled measure
From the fountain and the caves.
It was a miracle of rare device:
A sunny Pleasure-Dome with caves of ice!
A damsel with a dulcimer
In a vision once I saw:
It was an Abyssinian maid,
And on her dulcimer she played,
Singing of Mount Abora.
Could I revive within me
Her symphony and song,
To such deep delight ‘twould win me
That with music loud and long,
I would build that dome within the air!
That sunny dome, those caves of ice,
And all who heard should see them there,
And all should cry: “Beware! Beware!
His flashing eyes, his floating hair!
Weave a circle ’round him thrice,
And close your eyes in holy dread:
For he on honeydew hath fed,
And drunk the milk of Paradise!”

Or a Vision in a Dream. A Fragment
In Xanadu did Kubla Khan
A stately pleasure dome decree:
Where Alph, the sacred river, ran
Through caverns measureless to man
    Down to a sunless sea.
So twice five miles of fertile ground
With walls and towers were girdled round:
And there were gardens bright with sinuous rills,
Where blossomed many an incense-bearing tree;
And here were forests ancient as the hills,
Enfolding sunny spots of greenery.

But oh! that deep romantic chasm which slanted
Down the green hill athwart a cedarn cover!
A savage place! as holy and enchanted
As e'er beneath a waning moon was haunted
By woman wailing for her demon lover!
And from this chasm, with ceaseless turmoil seething,
As if this earth in fast thick pants were breathing,
A mighty fountain momently was forced:
Amid whose swift half-intermitted burst
Huge fragments vaulted like rebounding hail,
Or chaffy grain beneath the thresher's flail:
And 'mid these dancing rocks at once and ever
It flung up momently the sacred river.
Five miles meandering with a mazy motion
Through wood and dale the sacred river ran,
Then reached the caverns measureless to man,
And sank in tumult to a lifeless ocean:
And 'mid this tumult Kubla heard from far
Ancestral voices prophesying war!

    The shadow of the dome of pleasure
    Floated midway on the waves;
    Where was heard the mingled measure
    From the fountain and the caves. 
It was a miracle of rare device,
A sunny pleasure-dome with caves of ice!
     A damsel with a dulcimer
    In a vision once I saw;
    It was an Abyssinian maid,
    And on her dulcimer she played,
    Singing of Mount Abora.
    Could I revive within me
    Her symphony and song,
    To such a deep delight 'twould win me,
That with music loud and long,
I would build that dome in air,
That sunny dome! those caves of ice!
And all who heard should see them there,
And all should cry, Beware! Beware!
His flashing eyes, his floating hair!
Weave a circle round him thrice,
And close your eyes with holy dread,
For he on honey-dew hath fed,
And drunk the milk of Paradise.
- See more at:

September 16, 2013

Tea...and haggis?

Tea and I go way back (wayyyy back!)  I have jokingly remarked before that I think in the South babies graduate from formula to sweet tea in their bottles.  I can remember sitting on the piano bench with my other cousins at my grandparents' home for Sunday dinner and watching Grandma ladle sweet tea over glasses filled to the brim with ice.  It was delicious.

Celebrating my grandfather's 80th birthday...cake and TEA
My dad loved the way my mother made sweet tea so that became the de facto drink at our home growing up.  I didn't become a coffee drinker until grad school, so staying alert during college meant lots of Coke and cup after cup of hot tea.  My all-nighter comfort food was inevitably a hot cup of tea with cinnamon-sugar toast...just the thing to keep the creative juices flowing at two in the morning!

This picture from my freshman year of college cracks me up.  Let's see...what dates it the most?  The Holly Hobbie calendar, the manual typewriter or the dial telephone?  Note the can on the desk...I was never without Coke or tea!
On any given work day, you'll find me sitting in my cubicle sipping English Breakfast or Lady Jane Grey, probably with a lemon biscotti perched on the side of the saucer.  And on weekends I love to use one of my lovely teapots for an extra fillip of graciousness in my living room.  Even if I am alone, I love to lay out a lovely linen napkin and use a special tea cup. I may be a bit of a tea mugs allowed, only china cups!

So now that I've established my passion for tea (as if my blog title wasn't enough), I thought it might be fun to focus on a few extra favorite tea memories this week.  And if we are talking tea, where better to start than in the United Kingdom?  I discovered Tetley tea, served in a lovely silver teapot, at the bed and breakfast we stayed in outside Edinburgh, Scotland.

The flavor was perfect first thing in the morning, accompanied by scones and eggs and sausages, as well as fried tomatoes and haggis.  There was also a sideboard of cereal and fruit, for those less adventurous travelers.
 Breakfast buffet
 I can't say I enjoyed the haggis although I tried very hard to not be an ugly American tourist (like the other group staying there!) but I certainly enjoyed this lovely tea.  And of course sipping it while relaxing in the beautiful conservatory made it even nicer!
Looking out at the garden
Looking back at the breakfast conservatory on the right. It overlooks the walled garden, and beyond the garden is the Firth of Forth.

View from the walled garden at sunset
We could also enjoy piping hot tea in our room after a brisk walk around the neighborhood.  Although my husband will be quick to point out that his favorite warm-me-up beverage was the sherry and shortbread thoughtfully laid out by our hostess!
Tea tray
My favorite...

and his favorite!  Really, you couldn't go wrong with either choice...

And since we are in Scotland today, we might as well start the day off with Robert Burns, don't you think?  Here's a poem that waxes lyrical about that rather prosaic Scots dish of haggis. If you would like to read the "English" translation of the poem you can find it here.  Tomorrow we will travel south to London, and have tea in a very special place with extra special memories. 

 Until then, have a wonderful day!

Address To A Haggis

Fair fa' your honest, sonsie face,
Great chieftain o' the puddin-race!
Aboon them a' ye tak your place,
Painch, tripe, or thairm:
Weel are ye wordy of a grace
As lang's my arm.

The groaning trencher there ye fill,
Your hurdies like a distant hill,
Your pin wad help to mend a mill
In time o' need,
While thro' your pores the dews distil
Like amber bead.

His knife see rustic Labour dight,
An' cut ye up wi' ready slight,
Trenching your gushing entrails bright
Like onie ditch;
And then, O what a glorious sight,
Warm-reekin, rich!

Then, horn for horn, they strech an' strive:
Deil tak the hindmost! on they drive,
Till a' their weel-swall'd kytes belyve,
Are bent like drums;
Then auld Guidman, maist like to rive,
'Bethankit!' hums.

Is there that owre his French ragout
Or olio that wad staw a sow,
Or fricassee wad mak her spew
Wi' perfect sconner,
Looks down wi' sneering, scornfu' view
On sic a dinner?

Poor devil! see him owre his trash,
As feckless as a wither'd rash,
His spindle shank, a guid whip-lash,
His nieve a nit;
Thro' bluidy flood or field to dash,
O how unfit!

But mark the Rustic, haggis-fed,
The trembling earth resounds his tread.
Clap in his walie nieve a blade,
He'll make it whissle;
An' legs, an' arms, an' heads will sned,
Like taps o' thrissle.

Ye Pow'rs wha mak mankind your care,
And dish them out their bill o 'fare,
Auld Scotland wants nae skinking ware
That jaups in luggies;
But, if ye wish her gratefu' prayer,
Gie her a Haggis!